Chitol (Indian featherback) is a prized fish in Bengal and Assam. Chitol machher muithya is essentially a dumpling made from the flesh scraped out of the extremely bony dorsal side (called 'gaada' in Bengali) of the fish. Chitoler muithya has a very meat-like, springy, squeaky texture—almost like a good German wurst. This is very much a Bangal (East Bengali immigrants to India) delicacy made on special occasions.
The preparation requires some patience, but it is not technically difficult. If you practice scraping the flesh out of the gaada once, you will get a sense of how the bones are laid out, and how to gently get the meat out without upsetting the bones. If you scrape indiscriminately, or apply too much pressure in the beginning, the bones will go in every direction, making it very difficult to separate the bones out later from the mince. In short, it really is not as hard as it looks. Just takes a bit of time.
For the dumplings
- 1 kg chitoler gaada (weight before scaling; this should yield ~450 g keema)
- 60 g boiled potatoes
- 15 g ginger paste
- 5 g green chilli paste
- 3 g cumin powder
- 2 g coriander powder
- 2 g turmeric
- 1 tsp gorom moshla
- 7 g salt
- 6 g sugar
- 3 g maida
- 5 g mustard oil
- 750 ml water (for boiling)
- vegetable oil for deep-frying
For the gravy
- 3 pcs dried red chillies
- 2 pcs bay leaves
- 4 pcs cardamom
- 2 pcs cinnamon
- 4 pcs cloves
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
- 400 g potatoes
- 200 g onions
- 2 green chillies
- 5 g garlic paste
- 20 g ginger paste
- 60 g tomato
- 8 g cumin powder
- 4 g coriander powder
- 4 g turmeric
- ½ tsp red chilli powder
- 25 g beaten yoghurt
- 15 g salt
- 18 g sugar
- 600 ml stock/water
- 1 tbsp ghee
Making the muithya
- Cut the chitoler gaada along both sides of the central spine. It will open up like a book.
- Using very gentle pressure, start scraping out the fish from the skin using a spoon. Scrape in the direction of the bones, so as not to misalign or break them. Do this until you have extracted as much keema from the fish as you can.
- In a mixing bowl, add the keema, along with the boiled potato, ginger paste, green chilli paste, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric, gorom moshla, salt, sugar, and maida. Drizzle mustard oil. Mix everything well.
- The keema is very sticky, so oil your hands and the board. Divide the mixture into four equal (140 g) portions. Shape them into logs (12 × 5 cm).
- Bring water to the boil. Gently lower the muithya in the water, and boil on medium heat for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Reserve the stock for the gravy.
Making the gravy
- While the muithya are cooling, cut potatoes into 3-cm cubes. Thinly slice onions. Slit green chillies. Paste garlic.
- Once cool, divide each log into 6 cubes.
- Heat vegetable oil for deep frying. Fry the cubes in batches on high heat until golden. Set aside. You can skip this step, if you wish.
- Add potatoes. Fry until golden. Set aside.
- Leave around 70 g oil in the pan; remove the excess. Temper oil with dried red chillies, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin seeds.
- Add Kashmiri red chilli powder and fry for 10 seconds, taking care not to burn it.
- Add onions. Fry on medium heat for 15 minutes.
- Add garlic paste. Fry for 5 minutes. Add roughly chopped tomato. Fry on medium heat until soft (around 5 minutes).
- Add cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric, and red chilli powder to the kadai. Add a ladle of the fish stock. Cover and braise the spices on medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Add ginger paste. Mix well. Add beaten yoghurt and slit green chillies. Fry on medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Add salt and sugar, and the fried potatoes. Mix with the spices.
- Add the reserved fish stock or water. Once the gravy starts to simmer, add the fried muithya. Bubble until gravy thickens (5 minutes).
- Finish with ghee. Give everything a gentle stir.